Friday, July 29, 2011

Pushback Against the OIC — From the UN

In case anyone was wondering whether the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC, the body formerly known as the Organization of the Islamic Conference) was going to take advantage of last week’s massacre in Norway, the suspense is gone. The latest interview with OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu demonstrates that the OIC intends to exploit the killing fields of Utøya for strategic purposes as part of its ten-year struggle against “Islamophobia”.

Below are some excerpts from today’s issue of Today’s Zaman:

OIC head İhsanoğlu: Breivik’s massacre in Norway tip of iceberg

The chief of the world’s largest Muslim body has said the Norway massacre and blast that left at least 76 dead and dozens injured is only “the tip of the iceberg,” warning that the incident is the latest product of rampantly rising extremist political movement sweeping across Europe.

Ekmelledin İhsanoğlu, secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) told Today’s Zaman in an interview that growing animosity toward Islam in Europe in the past few years needs to be analyzed in order to decipher last week’s Norway massacre. Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik has admitted that he set off a car bomb in the government district of Oslo, killing at least eight people, then drove several miles northwest of the Norwegian capital to an island where the youth wing of the ruling Labor Party was holding its annual summer camp.

He arrived at Utøya Island posing as a police officer, then opened fire on scores of unsuspecting youth, executing them one after another as they tried to flee into the water. Sixty-eight people died, many of them teenagers.

İhsanoğlu said that before the incident on July 22 the Western world always either had a difficult time understanding or did not want to understand the phenomenon of growing Islamophobia. Giving credit to the organization he leads, İhsanoğlu said he has been very aware of this issue since he assumed his position in 2005. He said a series of major events revealing anti-Islamic sentiments afoot in Europe began with the infamous cartoon crisis.

A Danish daily published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2006 that led to a crisis between European nations and the Muslim world. Muslims across the world staged protests, sometimes violently attacking the embassies of Western countries, which defended the cartoonist’s freedom of speech.

İhsanoğlu said a great deal of what he had to deal with at the outset of his job as a secretary-general was related to this “insulting” issue. He said many senior European officials accused Muslims of trying to restrict freedom of speech, alleging that the outrage among Muslims was a result of their “extreme sensitivity” and that it is acceptable to draw cartoons of anyone.

He said his organization was unable to persuade Europeans that it is animosity against Islam which is on rise, despite repeated calls. But he said by time this issue began to be debated, similar incidents had begun slowly increasing, and the OIC introduced this matter at the United Nations General Assembly and its human rights agency. He said they OIC was also successful in pushing for UN endorsement of several decisions related to defamation of religion. He said these resolutions, adopted at the United Nations Human Rights Council in March of this year, were in support of OIC’s viewpoints.

İhsanoğlu added that these decisions were challenged by European nations, who argued that they are one-sided and restrict freedom of speech. He said the language of the statements was then changed to avoid bias, by specifying “religions and faiths” rather than “religion or faith.”

European countries have been under fire for overlooking right-wing terrorism threats, while devoting much of their resources to Islamist threats, despite a sharp decline in the number of such attacks. In the wake of Norway’s terrorist attack, the European police agency Europol established a task force of more than 50 experts to help investigate non-Islamist terrorist threats in Scandinavian countries. Europe has seen an overall increase in xenophobia, boosting the ranks of ultranationalists and fueling their activity.

In contrast, Europol’s 2011 terrorism watch report, released in April of this year, stated that Islamist terrorists carried out only three attacks on EU territory in 2010, while separatist groups, on the other hand, were responsible for 160 attacks and left-wing and anarchist groups were responsible for 45 attacks.

İhsanoğlu said the Norway massacre is very thought-provoking, when we consider that Breivik had no tolerance for Muslims or for those who are tolerant of Muslims.

The Secretary-General then reminds us that just a week before the killings in Norway, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed herself in full agreement with the OIC’s position:
Recalling a July 15 conference on the topic of interfaith dialogue in İstanbul with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, İhsanoğlu said that that meeting also stressed the importance of the UN Human Rights Council’s decision. The conference called on nations to reconcile freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

“The participants ... reaffirm their commitment to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression by urging states to take effective measures, as set forth in Resolution 16/18, consistent with their obligations under international human rights law, to address and combat intolerance, discrimination, and violence based on religion or belief,” read the final declaration produced in the conference, in which Clinton, İhsanoğlu, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton, together with foreign ministers and officials from 19 countries, the Office of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Arab League and the African Union participated.

Clinton and İhsanoğlu, who represents 57 Muslim nations in international forums, announced plans for future talks on how to reconcile freedom of speech with tolerance. İhsanoğlu urged in a speech given at the meeting that steps be taken to end double standards and racial or religious profiling. Such acts, he said, must not be condoned by states and should be addressed through structured and sustained engagement.

It’s important to remember what “tolerance” means in this context: it means that Islam cannot be criticized.

To criticize it is “intolerant”. Other examples of “intolerance” include:

1. The accurate description by non-Muslims of Islamic beliefs.
2. Non-Muslims quoting the Koran and the hadith correctly.
3. Any descriptions of the prophet Mohammed’s marriage to a child.
4. Any reference to documented evidence of Islam’s blood-soaked history of conquest…

…and many, many more.

In fact, any non-Muslim who says anything about Islam which differs from what Muslims say about it is intolerant.

We’re an intolerant lot, we are.

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Over the last decade or so we’ve become accustomed to the United Nations acting as almost a surrogate for the OIC, what with its myriad resolutions condemning Israel, and its human rights bodies staffed by representatives of the most repressive dictatorships on the planet. So who would expect the resistance to the OIC’s illiberal agenda to originate in the UN Human Rights Committee?

But that’s exactly what happened, unless this new document from the UNHRC has some fine print that is not described in this article from The Vancouver Sun:

UN experts set out tough rules on human rights

Geneva — The UN’s Human Rights Committee said on Thursday that freedom of expression was a “meta-right” underpinning all human rights everywhere.

A long-awaited document from the panel of 18 jurists also said that freedom of opinion, and by extension religion, should not be restricted under any circumstances and warned governments that did so they would be violating a basic UN accord.

The independent experts, set out their trenchant stance in a “general comment” on how parts of the UN’s Covenant on Civil and Political Rights should be interpreted and applied.

The comment, committee vice-chairman Michael O’Flaherty, told a media conference, “is a strong reaffirmation of the central importance for all human rights of the freedom of expression”, even of giving views some see as deeply offensive.

The 15-page document, interpreting two paragraphs of the 1976 Covenant, hit at anti-terror laws, monopoly media, anti-blasphemy statutes and prosecution of maverick historians.

Islamic and some Western countries have blasphemy laws, and the “history” strictures were clearly aimed at criminalisation in some European countries, including Germany and Austria, of writings suggesting the World War II Holocaust was a myth.

The UNHRC paper explicitly mentions the possibility that the killings in Norway might be exploited to restrict free speech, and warns against such action:

Norway Debate

By implication, the committee waded into a debate raging since last Friday’s killings in Norway by an anti-immigrant extremist over whether public or media criticism of Muslim practices, dubbed by some “Islamophobia”, should be restricted.

Rather, said the jurists — including four from Muslim states — it was “prohibitions on displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws” that would violate “free speech” provisions in the 167-nation covenant.

That stricture, they said, would also apply to any move “to prevent or punish criticism of religious leaders or commentary on religious doctrine and tenets of faith” — action that Islamic countries have long sought in the world body.

Some Muslim states such as Pakistan have signed up to the covenant but argue that shariah law — which bars conversion from Islam to other faiths or to atheism — takes precedence. O’Flaherty said such a view would violate the pact.

Who would have thought that the last major resistance to the combined forces of Hillary Clinton and the OIC would be the United Nations? Imagine, the Human Rights Committee defending actual human rights.

There is one problem, however: the UNHRC has no real teeth.

It has no enforcement mechanism, but countries generally prefer to avoid falling foul of the 18 jurists who all have reputations as strong-minded legal and human rights specialists ready to speak out on violations anywhere.

For right now, this is as about as good as it’s going to get. And it’s a lot better than I thought it would be just a few weeks ago.

From the UN, of all places.

Hat tip: Frontinus.

Previous posts about Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and the OIC:

2007 Aug 31 The OIC is Barking Now
  Sep 7 OIC: Insulting Islam is an Illness
    12 Sweden Apologizes Again… Or Not
  Dec 10 Countering Islamophobia
2008 Feb 17 Nice Little Civilization You Have Here…
  Mar 6 Our Man in the OIC
    13 An American Dhimmi in Dakar
  Apr 30 Is Europe a “Christian-Muslim” Continent?
  Jun 10 OIC: Time to Crack Down on Provocative Speech
    17 The OIC’s Plan for Fighting Islamophobia
    22 The OIC’s Crusade Against Islamophobia
  Aug 3 The Islam-Aligned Movement
  Sep 25 The OIC Fights Islamophobia at Columbia University
  Oct 11 Confronting Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu
  Nov 1 Fisking Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu
2009 Mar 5 Mandating International Respect for Islam
    20 What is Eurabian Culture?
2010 Jan 25 The Caliphate-in-Waiting
  Jul 27 Accommodating Sharia
  Oct 5 Decoding the Words of the OIC